With holders Spain crashing out to provide the latest shock in what has thus far been one of the best World Cups in recent memory, now would seem like an appropriate time to take stock, and have a look at the top five talking points of the greatest tournament on Earth…. So far….
1. Spain Eliminated
Is it that much of surprise? Despite Diego Costa having a fine season for Atletico Madrid, he suffered an injury late in the season, never looked fully fit and looked completely out of his depth (he also signed for Chelsea despite witnessing what that did to colleague Fernando Torres). With half of the first team named as starters based on reputation and previous exploits, rather than current form (Casillas, Pique, Xavi, Busquets etc…), the responsibility must surely sit with Del Bosque. A failure to freshen things up, play some of the younger stars who are making such an impression in the Premier League – De Gea, Santi Carzola, Mata – and ultimately a failure to spot a lack-lustre squad full of tired individuals with – dare I say it – a lack of hunger. It was all too evident in both comprehensive defeats.
2. Opening Game Controversy
Despite Neymar, one of the stars of the World Cup, scoring two goals in a 3-1 victory over Croatia. The scoreline tells nothing of the story of the game. The Croats were on top and deservedly went ahead before Neymar scored his first, however an embarrassingly over-dramatic fall in the area by the mostly anonymous Fred, meant that the hosts had a chance to take the lead from the spot. Neymar duly obliged, despatching the spot kick but the nature of the turning point in the game left a sour taste…
3. Van Persie Leapt Like a Salmon
It looked as though the Spanish were en route to another less-than exciting victory in a World Cup match, only for Van Persie to provide another example of the kind of technique that only he has in world football. Most players would have tried to bring down the 50-yard pass that saw him drift into a dangerous area, Van Persie however saw Casillas slightly off his line and produced the kind of diving header that will go down in World Cup history. The goal came on the stroke of half-time, and the momentum shift it created led to the Dutch winning 5-1, in truth it could have been eight or nine.
4. Silly Spray
The disappearing spray used by referees has been a nice feature of the tournament, it has historically been annoying to see the wall shuffling forward while the referee has his back turned, not only has this eliminated that, it’s also good when the referee sprays the foamy substance all over the ridiculous pink ankle boots that so many of the players have embarrassingly selected to wear for the tournament.
5. Unfinished Business
From car parks being left full of rubble, to stairways rocking with unsteadiness as supporters use them, this World Cup is a health & safety nightmare. Fortunately thus far there have been few incidents aside from those caused by protestors (who took it upon themselves to pelt TV studios with rocks during live broadcasts from the Copacabana), and over 100 Peru fans who charged the stadium pre-Spain and found their way into the Media Centre having knocked down a wall to get there. This aside, we can only hope that some of the questionable handiwork of the Brazilians manages to hold together for the next three weeks…..